What Is Namib Desert and Where Is It Located?
Namib Desert is an arid region in South West Africa. It lies along the coast of Namibia, between the Atlantic Ocean and the interior plateau. The area is very dry, receiving less than 1cm (0.5in) of rain each year and very little vegetation grows here. The Namib Desert is one of the 500 distinct physiographic provinces of the South African Platform physiographic division.
It occupies an area of around 81,000 km² (31,000 square miles), stretching from the Usiab River (north) to the town of Lüderitz (south) and from the Atlantic Ocean (west) to the Namib Escarpment (east). It is about 1,000 miles (1600 km) long from north to south and its east-west width varies from 30 to 100 miles (50–160 km).
To the north, the desert leads into the Kaokoveld; the dividing line between these two regions is roughly at the latitude of the city of Walvis Bay, and it consists in a narrow strip of land (about 50 km wide) that is the driest place in Southern Africa. To the south, the Namib borders on the South African Karoo semi-desert.
Namib desert is world famous for the highest dunes in the world at Sossusvlei, they attract a vast number of travellers each year, many of whom aim to climb up the sands and enjoy a thrilling slide back down. Sossusvlei, in the southern part of the Namib Desert, is a salt and clay ‘pan’ surrounded by sand dunes. Due to its unique red sand, Sossusvlei is a must-see for many people when travelling to Africa. A variety of different animal species can be found roaming Sossusvlei, including antelopes, ostriches, rodents and birds.
The sand dunes in the Sossusvlei area are known as ‘star dunes’ due to the shape formed when the wind approaches from all directions. As a result, the dunes hardly move. The sand in the region is given its distinctive red colour from the layer of iron oxide which coats it. The colour of the sand changes across the desert. Closer to the sea in the west the sand appears whiter, whereas moving inland the sand becomes pink in colour.
This extremely arid ecoregion comprises shifting sand dunes, gravel plains and rugged mountains. The world’s oldest desert, the Namib Desert has existed for at least 55 million years, completely devoid of surface water but bisected by several dry riverbeds. These riverbeds are vegetated and are home to a few ungulates, such as Hartmann’s zebras. The south of the desert is extremely dry and even lacks dry riverbeds; gemsbok is the only large mammal to occur in this harsh environment.
Thick fogs are frequent along the coast and are the life-blood of the desert, providing enough moisture for a number of interesting, highly-adapted animal species to survive. The Namib Desert is well protected in a series of National Parks, Recreation Areas and Protected Diamond Areas. The diamond areas require more formal protection when the lease on these areas expires in 2020.